Calcaneal stress fractures can cause significant pain in the heel of the foot. The calcaneus, also known as the heel bone, is prone to stress fractures due to repetitive stress or overuse. These fractures can be debilitating and require proper diagnosis and treatment. An experienced podiatrist can help you manage the condition effectively to prevent complications.
Causes and Symptoms of Calcaneal Stress Fractures
Calcaneal stress fractures typically occur due to repetitive stress and overuse of the foot. Athletes, especially runners and dancers, are at a higher risk due to the repetitive impact their feet endure. Other factors contributing to calcaneal stress fractures include sudden increases in physical activity, improper footwear, and biomechanical abnormalities such as high arches or flat feet. Individuals with osteoporosis or weakened bones are also more susceptible to these fractures.
The most common symptom of a calcaneal stress fracture is heel pain. Initially, the pain may be mild and occur during activity, but as the fracture progresses, it can become constant and severe. Other symptoms may include:
- Pain and swelling in the heel area
- Difficulty walking or bearing weight on the affected foot
- Ankle instability
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
At Advanced Foot and Ankle, our podiatrists can diagnose, treat and help manage calcaneal stress fractures. To diagnose a stress fracture, a podiatrist will perform a physical exam and may press on your heel to check for signs of a fracture. In addition, they may use various diagnostic tools, such as X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans, to confirm the presence of a stress fracture and determine the extent of the injury.
Treatment for calcaneal stress fractures focuses on relieving pain, promoting healing, and preventing further damage. Initial treatment may consist of the following:
- Rest and immobilization of the affected foot to reduce stress and allow the fracture to heal
- Crutches or a walking boot to avoid putting weight on the injured heel
- Cold therapy to help with pain and swelling
- Over-the-counter pain medications to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation
- Advanced treatment options such as MLS Laser Therapy to speed up tissue repair and provide fast pain relief
- Custom orthotics to correct any biomechanical issues contributing to the fracture
- Physical therapy to help restore normal foot function
- Surgical intervention, especially if the fracture fails to heal or other complications occur
Preventing Calcaneal Stress Fractures
Your podiatrist will closely monitor the healing progress throughout the recovery process and adjust your treatment plan accordingly. They can provide guidance on preventive measures to minimize the risk of future stress fractures.
Ways to reduce your risk of calcaneal stress fractures:
- Gradually increase in physical activity. Avoid sudden spikes in physical activity levels, especially high-impact exercises like running or jumping. Instead, gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts to allow your bones and muscles to adapt and strengthen over time.
- Wear proper footwear. Invest in good-quality athletic shoes that provide sufficient cushioning and support for your feet. Make sure the shoes fit properly and are appropriate for the specific activities you engage in. Replace worn-out shoes regularly to maintain their effectiveness.
- Listen to your body. Pay attention to any signs of discomfort or pain in your feet or heels. If you experience persistent pain during or after physical activity, it is essential to rest and give your feet time to recover. Ignoring pain can increase the risk of stress fractures.
- Maintain proper nutrition. Maintain a well-balanced diet that includes essential nutrients for bone health, such as calcium and vitamin D. Adequate nutrition plays a crucial role in supporting bone strength and overall musculoskeletal health. Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol since they can increase your risk for stress fractures.